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Master Clans Conference Chapter (II) is the 18th volume in the Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Light Novel series.

Synopsis

Black Sage was behind the explosion at the end of Volume 17. The public starts to blame magicians for the bombing attack. (Heigu apparently used a corpse instead of a living person to infiltrate their meeting location). This ignites the return of the Anti-Magician propaganda. The Ten Master Clans decide that they need to get to the bottom of this. Tatsuya, Juumonji, Masaki and Mayumi team up to hunt down the Black Sage. Soon, Tatsuya and the others go ahead towards an unpredictable course/direction/way. When Tatsuya is near to grasping the clue leading to Heigu's whereabouts he is blocked by an unexpected opponent.

Gouki says to Masaki: The Yotsuba Clan's Shiba Tatsuya-dono is equal to you, he'll join to the search under Juumonji-dono's leadership. Masaki, show your will-power. Pushed by Gouki, Masaki tries something unexpected, he tries to get close to Miyuki while Mayumi is also being pushed to the forefront by various schemes not of her own. The battle begins before Valentine's Day. Meanwhile the emotional battle continues. 

Get Ready!!!

"Humanism" and Domestic Affairs

Spoiler
It is universally recognized that "Humans should live by the power bestowed upon humans" so claims the anti-magic touting religious sub-cult of Christians (Heretics). Or, rather, it was a cover story used to boycott Magicians. Introducing one part of this creed is their claim that, "Miracles are only permitted for gods, everything that twists the creation of God's providence is the act of the devil. Humans must only live by the power bestowed upon them".

February 2097 A.D. A large scale terror act happened during the Master Clans Conference in Hakone, Japan. Humanist advocates claimed that the cause of this terror act was because of strife between Magicians, and that the Magicians let civilians die without helping them. This intensified the anti-Magician sentiment. Following this, The Heads of the Ten Master Clans are racking their brains about countermeasures for this situation.

Hacking system "Hliðskjálf"

Spoiler
The USNA Army uses a hidden system "ECHELON III" that can intercept information worldwide. The seven operators who have access to this system are called the "Seven Sages", and can steal any information they wish from around the world.

Hliðskjálf's terminal is controlled by brainwaves and gestures using a virtual reality headset and a camera that tracks the movements of the operator's fingertips. This is reflected inside the virtual world that the user sees. The operator can enter their search criteria by writing characters of light in the air using their imagination, and can choose to send commands to grasp information using their brainwaves, this is the world's greatest interception system.

However, from the beginning, within the operators of Hliðskjálf who use the title of the "Seven Sages", there is only one person. That is Raymond S. Clark, who possesses a direct link to the administrator of Hliðskjálf.

"Who is Gu Jie"

Spoiler
Jiedo Heigu or Gu Jie is affiliated with the great Magicians of the Kunlunfang Institute. At the Kunlunfang, Gu Jie developed eternal youth magic. The reason why he targeted the Japanese Magic Community and the Yotsuba is unclear (Even he probably can't even remember what kind of mental gymnastics he used to come to this conclusion).

Gu Jie is 97 years old. However, from his appearance, you would think he was only 50 years old. Zhou Gongjin is his disciple. Although, Gu Jie's individual fighting strength is low. He is a user of Ancient Magic from the Continent, however, he does not specialize in direct confrontations with his enemies. His specialty technique is like "Sorcery Booster," which is turning human's parts into magic accessories, a technique that changes humans into a Generator. He manipulates corpses for this time's act of terror with his techniques.

Additionally, as a member of the "Seven Sages", he ruled the underground and he supported various underground organizations like The internal anti-Magic Association, "Blanche", and the International Crime Syndicate "No Head Dragon". However, they have already been destroyed. And now, the time he has left to live is also coming to a close.

Chapter 6

Spoiler
February 5th, 2097, at around 10:30 am, a large-scale bombing took place in a certain hotel in Hakone. The targeted hotel was the venue selected for the Ten Master Clans Conference. Tatsuya, Miyuki, Minami, Takuma, Kasumi, and Izumi had received the news during class and immediately headed out to the scene.

Upon arriving, they see a scene of carnage with unexploded bombs still going off. Tatsuya stops Miyuki from trying to help and they search for Maya and the other clan heads. Tatsuya spots them first and see’s they are with a detective. On seeing them the Saegusa twins run up to their father and Izumi starts on the detective but is stopped from making more of a scene by Tatsuya. The clan heads were surrounded by detectives as though they were suspects but Tatsuya is disinterested. Maya’s death would have been inconvenient as he has yet to form a foundation for his position next to Miyuki.

Maya can be said to be one of the most powerful Magicians in the world. It wasn't a bluff. There was almost no one who could beat her in magic combat. Tatsuya could due to ‘Regrowth’. However, her body is just that of a normal person, it’s not enhanced. Tatsuya had been prepared to use ‘Regrowth’ in public if necessary.

Having confirmed she was alive; Tatsuya ponders whether to leave when Ichijou Masaki arrives. He joins Tatsuya as he checks the surroundings before greeting them. His expression is awkward due to the engagement proposal and Miyuki is trying to be mature and not make him uncomfortable. Upon hearing they clan heads are being questioned Masaki returns to his goal of seeing his father as Juumonji Katsuto, likely due to him being a minor, comes over.

Katsuto updates the group on what’s happening. He confirms all the heads are uninjured. In the background Tatsuya see’s Yotsuba personnel led by Hanabishi mixing with the crowd to check for more bombers. Katsuto explains they don’t know all the details, but the conference was attacked by suicide bombers and animated corpses, and that the heads made their way to the roof to seek refuge. They didn’t know they were definitely the targets at this time. Izumi asks why they are being questioned and Juumonji confirms it because they were present for the whole incident but aren’t suspects. The prime suspects are the ‘Humanists’. Miyuki lets slip an Onii-sama, which Juumonji questions but Tatsuya covers by saying they’re still adjusting to the change in their relationship.

With no further questions to answer, Katsuto heads over to meet with Saegusa Tomokazu who has just arrived, and the twins go with him. The Shiba siblings discuss the risk of the police being overtaken with anti-magician sentimentality but Tatsuya doesn’t think it would get that far but the public's reaction to the attack could vary greatly depending on how it’s publicized. Tatsuya proposes returning to school as Maya is okay, and the three Yotsuba leave while Takuma remains.

◊ ◊ ◊

The hotel was burnt down, with many injured and many dead.

The mastermind Jiedo Heigu is observing the aftermath from nine kilometres away and feeling very satisfied by the lack of security in the city and how well the plan went. And the fact so many died as the clan heads didn’t protect everyone was ideal for spreading the message he wanted to spread to the Japanese, that The Ten Master Clans would abandon ordinary citizens if it was to save themselves.

Jiedo Heigu vows to take away the clan’s place in Japan as revenge for the destruction of Dahan by the Yotsuba. At his feet were the corpses of the house’s owner and family.

◊ ◊ ◊

Benjamin Canopus was currently in a room inside the USNA Embassy watching the report on the bombing. He’s feeling conflicted due to his orders forbidding warning the Japanese of the stolen weapons. He’s been ordered to kill Heigu to stop him leaking any information.

◊ ◊ ◊

After the clan heads are released, they head to the Magic Association branch in Kantou via Masaki’s helicopter. The clan heads headed into the conference room while Masaki and the others waited in a separate room.

Getting straight to business the group discuss how to deal with the situation. Kouichi advises they won’t be able to control the media with so many casualties, meddling at this point could make things far worse. The general consensus is something needs doing but they can’t overdo it. The group decide on making an open public statement of their position of condemning the terrorists and assisting the capture of the perpetrators while reaffirming the terrorists are the bad ones.

Some concerns are raised that capturing the terrorist themselves would be too risky as they’d need military permission and if more attacks occurred in the meantime it would make the clans look worse.

"However, that doesn't mean we'll just idly sit around while the terrorist attacks us."

Maya intervenes and makes it clear they need to act, however saying they should focus on stopping further attacks rather than getting involved in the hunt. Maya then states she will assign Tatsuya to hunt for the terrorist on the Yotsuba’s behalf. Gouki volunteers Masaki. Mai is concerned about pulling the pair out of school but Maya counters stating the issue will be dealt with within the month with the Yotsuba’s backing.

To support her idea Maya informs them of Tatsuya’s accomplishments, dealing with the Blanche terrorists, participating in the Yokohama Incident, the Parasite Incident, and the hunt for Zhou Gongjin.

Kouichi suggests his son Tomokazu lead the operation but suggests the Juumonji lead if they others are unhappy with this, with Tomokazu assisting. Katsuto agrees to take on the role, and Maya and Gouki offer their respective sons to assist. Katsuto leaves overall command to Tomokazu but sates Masaki and Tatsuya will work under himself, not Tomokazu.

Mai wonders if the mastermind is really in Japan as the corpse manipulation technique if foreign. Gouki points out it is as that spell needs you to be in a ten-kilometre range and can’t be done in advance.

With that the plan is agreed upon.

◊ ◊ ◊

After the meeting ended all the heads went home to strengthen their home territories, though the actual responsibility lay with the police. Gouki and Masaki are also headed home when Gouki informs Masaki it has been decided that he’ll be joining the terrorist hunt. Gouki states he’ll deal with the school as Masaki will need time off and that he’ll be working with Tatsuya.

◊ ◊ ◊

The events of February 5th, 2097, were coming to an end. Tatsuya, Miyuki and Minami have returned hone and Tatsuya is reflecting on the attack, he’s just thankful Maya was ok, and that Miyuki wasn’t targeted. He has no desire to personally get involved.

Tatsuya’s thoughts are interrupted by a call from Maya, which the three take in the living room. After exchanging greetings, they get to the point and Maya orders Tatsuya to neutralize the terrorist mastermind. She explains the Master Clans Conference has decided such and that it will be led by Juumonji Katsuto, though the main force will be from the Saegusa, and that Tatsuya was requested by Katsuto. Upon hearing Masaki will be assisting Miyuki is less than pleased. Maya informs then the operation shouldn’t take up too much time as they know the culprits Gu Jie, or Jiedo Heigu, the former head of Dahan’s Kunlunfang Institute and a basic description. Maya also informs them the Yotsuba can get a general location with magic, at which point Tatsuya will come into play as once he’s seen he cannot escape Tatsuya’s eyes.

◊ ◊ ◊

After the call Maya starts asking Hayama if he’s found any leads. He hasn’t. Hayama notices Maya’s frustration and realises it’s because she didn’t act on the intel from Colonel Balance. He then encourages her to rest as she’s exhausted. She tells Hayama to inform her of any developments in the morning.

Chapter 7

Spoiler
February 6th.

A night had passed since the terror attack. It was drizzling but Tatsuya went to Kokonoe Temple, as usual. After the usual rough welcome Tatsuya asks Yakumo to teach him how to break Ghost Walker. Yakumo has no obligation to do so as Tatsuya was not paying nor a student, and simply there at Kazuma’s request, though at this point Tatsuya can serve as Yakumo’s practice partner. Tatsuya is aware of their relationship but believes Ghost Walker is beyond his current abilities, having only cracked Zhou’s technique due to the blood needles Nakura had used on Zhou prior and Jiedo Heigu likely was the one instructing Zhou. Yakumo states he can’t directly teach Tatsuya anything, but Tatsuya asks for a non-magical means as his magic is limited. Yakumo states that’s only Modern Magic, and that Tatsuya would be very compatible with Ancient Magic which controls more than just altering events but also controlling the Psions. Manipulating Psions can realize a technique to break Ghost Walker.

Yakumo casts a spell which disorientates Tatsuya’s senses. Bringing his focus inside himself and concentrating on his sense of gravity and is seized by a Psion wave that breaks the illusion.

Yakumo is impressed Tatsuya broke the spell first try. Tatsuya asks if it was Ghost Walker but Yakumo informs him it isn’t, Ghost Walker can affect an entire squadron of troops, the one used is essentially a primitive version that only affects the individual.

Tatsuya thanks Yakumo for his assistance, planning to continue to train on his own. And the pair begin sparing.

◊ ◊ ◊

The day then continues as usual until lunch where the usual group has settled for lunch together when the newscaster on TV reads out the terrorist group’s statement in regard to the bombing.

——Yesterday, the ones who struck the hotel in Hakone was us.

——We will wage a holy war in order to annihilate this demonic power called magic from Earth.

——Yesterday's attack was targeted towards the ringleaders of Magicians in this country, the Ten Master Clans.

——However, the despicable Ten Master Clans managed to escape while using civilians as their shields.

——We will continue to fight to liberate humanity from the control of these mutants who claim to be Magicians.

——Until the Japanese banish Magicians, victims will continue to fall.

The caster then proceeded to conclude the damage status of yesterday's terror bomb attack. Amongst the 89 guests of the hotel, 22 are deceased, and 34 were injured. He mentioned that 33 people were saved, 27 of which were magicians of which non were killed or injured and commented had they focused on saving human lives over escaping the casualties could've been kept to a minimum.

Erika, Leo and Mikihiko were angered by the claims that non-magicians should have been prioritized whilst Tatsuya points out they were directly stating magician lives are less valuable.

Listening in silence the broadcast is full of terrorist blaming, though the politicians avoid blaming the clans which would play into the hands of the terrorists. However, the words blurted by the newscaster would reverberate in the future. The group worry that a repeat of the attack last April will occur again.

◊ ◊ ◊

Tonight, Tatsuya had been invited to the Juumonji Family's manor.

Tatsuya is greeting by Katsuto and on entering notices a ladies shoes, though the Juumonji family has only three sons, the other two being a freshman and junior in middle school and a five-year old daughter, leaving Tatsuya to wonder who else is here, though he had a good idea.

The pair head to another room where Mayumi was waiting and after exchanging pleasantries the three sit down, Tatsuya and Mayumi on one sofa, with a wide gap between them, and Juumonji opposite Tatsuya on another. And old maid enters and brings Tatsuya some tea, refilling the cups of the other two before promptly leaving.

Juumonji first apologizes for calling the pair to his house and the conversation moves to the main topic, to which Juumonji asks the others to help investigate the terrorist attack. Tatsuya states he has received an order from the Yotsuba head and will assist but inquires as to Mayumi’s presence as her brother should be the one assisting from the Saegusa. Juumonji asks Mayumi to aid as a friend and not as a member of the clans so she’s free to refuse. Mayumi asks for clarification on his request, and he states the investigation method is untraditional. Mayumi clarifies her brother taking the lead but Juumonji in charge, which is inefficient. Mayumi believes it to be due to the Kantou region being under joint control and Juumonji doesn’t elaborate it’s also due to her father’s disloyalty. Juumonji states he wants her to act as a liaison between Tomokazu and themselves to keep both parties informed, and understanding that family secrets may be involved, she need only report on the terrorists. Mayumi agrees as she’s in the best position to do so.

It was actually Saegusa Kouichi that suggested Mayumi be the liaison but Juumonji had realized it was to increase face time between her and Tatsuya, though he didn’t let on he was annoyed and hurt by being used in his scheme.

Moving on to the actual plan of action Juumonji states not to take time off until there were more clues so requests that they stay in close contact for the time being, meeting in person to make updates, another suggestion, almost a demand, from Kouichi. Tatsuya agrees, seemingly without sensing Kouichi’s plot. Mayumi also agrees but states it can’t be daily.

The three agree to meet the day after next with Tatsuya meeting them at the Magic Universities main gate at 1800 hours.

◊ ◊ ◊

Far from Tokyo and unaware of the meeting between Tatsuya, Mayumi and Katsuto, Ichijou Gouki meets with Third High’s principal Maeda Chizuru at a restaurant. They were old friends and they knew each other from when they both studied at Third High, she was his Senpai. Cutting to the chase he brings up the terrorist attack and states Masaki is being sent to Tokyo for an extended period and asks he be excused from school. Maeda states it’s not possible even for one of the Ten Master Clans. Instead she suggests he ask Momoyama, First High’s principal, to let Masaki study there for the duration for the theory classes, though not the practical classes. The pair agree to make the arrangements for the following Monday and for a month until March 9th. The pair then drank until dawn.

◊ ◊ ◊

The terrorist’s statement has caused a wave of anti-magician sentiment with some media outlets outright blaming the magicians. The students at First High were clearly losing composure and constantly checking the news. They split into three opinions. The first, mostly boys, were angry at the media. The second, mostly girls were afraid of the hostility it was causing. The third, mostly the Numbers, were very vocal in their complaints.

As a result, the Student Council was struggling to maintain its efficiency and Tatsuya would be absent from tomorrow. Deciding to say something to break the atmosphere. As such he stopped working in response to a comment made by Kanon in response to the news, challenging her remark by asking if she thinks they are in the wrong and was joined by Izumi and Miyuki. Kanon goes on to blame the Ten Master Clans for being incompetent, a sentiment shared by her classmates and the mainstream hundred and make her all the more vocal. Izumi demands to know what they did wrong and Kanon says they should have helped the general public and know what would happen if they didn’t. Izumi refutes by asking what she means by ‘general public’, point out if she means civilian then that applies to the Ten Master Clans also and asks why they need prioritize one part of the general public over another.

This triggers Kanon’s temper and Isori has to step in and Miyuki sends Izumi to buy drinks for everyone, essentially sending her out to calm down. Minami goes with her.

With Izumi gone Isori makes it clear Kanon was in the wrong as the Ten Master Clans had no obligation to help and she can’t force her goodwill onto others, using the example that even firefighters don’t rush into a fire if it means certain death. He ends by making it clear he’s unhappy with her conduct and tells her to apologize when Izumi gets back.

◊ ◊ ◊

Thanks to Isori, Izumi and Kanon apologize to each other. But in real life there are no such mediators and the resentment escalated. The magicians had no choice but to grin and bear it. This didn’t sit well with many youths and Shippou Takuma was one of them. Determined to do what he needed to even if it meant grovelling, he went to see Sawamura Maki at her apartment.

He was expecting the worst but was smoothly invited inside. Sitting across from her, much more distant that in the previous spring. After some pleasantries and Takuma admitting he was reluctant to come for help from his ex and asks for a favor, making his sincerity and intention to repay it clear through is mannerisms, shocking Maki.

Maki hasn’t forgotten Tatsuya’s warning but still felt she should hear him out. Takuma brings up the terrorist attack and how magicians are taking the brunt of the public's outrage. Maki points out the reason is that people become collateral damage in the attack. Takuma then states they can’t just leave it as is as it risks magicians losing their basic human rights and be the victims of witch hunts. Maki to thought that was only a matter of time. Realizing he wants to borrow her father’s power and use the media companies under their control. Takuma affirms this and bows his head, acknowledging there is no benefit for them. Maki confirms she’ll be repaid the favor and Takuma affirms if it’s within his power he’ll do anything (words he would regret three years later when he’s in collage and co-stars with Maki on the silver screen, the first magician to do such a thing in the last year of the century).

◊ ◊ ◊

Late that same night the bodies of the perpetrators behind the terrorist attack are visited by two people, Kuroba Mitsugu and Yoshimi. Mitsugu got the coroner to let them in with a bribe. Suicide bombings usually don’t leave intact corpses but some of the bomber’s bodies were relatively intact and they only needed part of a head. Yoshimi touches a head and uses magic, injecting Psions and reading the rebound, much like a CAD, to read the information body.

Psions are particles that form thought and intentions, Pushions result from thoughts and intentions. Magic sequences too are Psion information bodies why is why this wouldn’t work on a live person as their own internal activities would distort it. But a corpse doesn’t think so this information remains there much longer and the Kuroba’s trump card, Yoshimi, can read the Psion information body of a corpse.

‘Memory of the Dead’

After retrieving the information from six corpses, she breaths a sigh of relief.

“Found it.”

The objective secured the pair leave.

◊ ◊ ◊

Needless to say, the Ten Master Clans weren't the only people looking for the terrorists. The pride of the police had been hurt and a nationwide deployment of the special investigation team was underway with all available manpower on the hunt.

Unexpectedly, Officer Chiba Toshikazu, who had been put on standby in the home office, had gone ahead to investigate without waiting for the detectives to be mobilized, motivated by the resentment. But they had already hit a wall, all the perpetrators were dead. Both Inagaki and Toshikazu thought it strange as even the ones without apparent injuries were also dead and the autopsies state the time of death is at least one day before the bombings, possibly up to ten with cryopreservation, meaning they were walking corpses carrying bombs.

The police department has concluded it was magic that controls corpses.

Inagaki states there is no choice but to consult a specialist but Toshikazu the only people in the database who used Necromancy were all dead. Faced with no leads the pair head to Roter Wald.

Toshikazu is hoping to see Fujibayashi Kyouko again, whom he hadn’t seen since the Yokohama incident and had been too busy to contact since.

He sat at the counter with Inagaki and ordered two coffees. As he’s waiting for his drink hears the door and sees Fujibayashi walk in. The pair exchange pleasantries as she joins them at the counter. Toshikazu asks her about Ancient Magic and asks if she has time to discuss it. She prompts him to ask the bartender his question and using a memo asks for an introduction to a specialist on controlling corpses and quickly memorizes the reply. The pair get up to leave.

Heading out Toshikazu rides in Fujibayashi’s car while Inagaki follows behind. Cutting straight to the chase he confirms it’s about the bombing and how strange it is. He states all the perpetrators died, none escaped as they were on camera. Moreover, they showed no suspicious signs nor traced of explosive materials which would have been picked up by the scanners. Additionally, they appear to have already been dead. Hearing this she realizes he wants to ask about ‘Doll Makers’ and tells him they are Ancient Magicians the rest of the community is cautious of and warns him the ‘Doll Maker’ Oumi Kazukiyo has deep ties with the magicians of Dahan.

◊ ◊ ◊

Friday, February 8th, 5:57pm.

Tatsuya has arrived at the gates to the university as agreed, having gone home to change first. Mayumi arrives five minutes late. After exchanging pleasantries, the pair head to the venue for their meeting where Juumonji is waiting.

The venue is a restaurant ten minutes away, which looked like a house on the outside. The venue is empty, and Mayumi tells Tatsuya it was one that only served guests introduced by existing customers and that Juumonji Katsuto uses frequently, so he need not worry.

The pair join Katsuto at the table, with Mayumi sitting next to Tatsuya who is across from Katsuto. With the meeting with Mari fresh in his mind, Tatsuya is aware of Mayumi’s feelings for him but his is not interested in her like that. Tatsuya had come to terms with Miyuki's feelings, and had become her fiancé, even if his heart hasn’t reached the same place but in terms of romance, Miyuki alone is his absolute limit. As such Tatsuya is being cautious.

Katsuto asks if anyone has learned anything.

Mayumi starts and reports they only know the terrorists came by sea from the USNA and likely landed in Yokosuka but that these are only guesses.

Tatsuya follows up saying they have intel from the USNA, surprising the others as apart from the Mitsuya family who trade arms internationally strong magicians cannot leave the country. He informs them the mastermind is Gu Jie, formally of Dahan and known as Jiedo Heigu in English, that he appears to be in his fifties with black skin and white hair, though the intel cannot be verified. Maya had directed Tatsuya to share this information so the Saegusa can investigate him as well.

In response Mayumi and Katsuto to use the information to pick out suspicious foreigners entering the country in the last fortnight and can get help from the police. Though the Chiba family has most sway with the police, in Kantou the Saegusa have the most influence over the investigation teams and given the size of the incident the police will be frantically looking for clues.

Katsuto tasks Mayumi with informing the police and asks Tatsuya to continue investigating. The pair had no questions so Katsuto offers them a meal, but Tatsuya declines, saying he’ll be eating at home, and Mayumi says maybe tomorrow. The three agree to meet here the next day. Katsuto states he has another meeting after this and asks Tatsuya to take Mayumi home. This flusters Mayumi who declines but Katsuto insists as the terrorists might attack. Tatsuya agrees, cementing the result.

It was a twenty-minute walk to the cabinet station. It’s dark out which slows Mayumi’s pace and Tatsuya courteously matches it, and the pair walk in silence. The pair reach the halfway point before Mayumi comments when it starts snowing, breaking the silence. Tatsuya takes out an umbrella from his coat. Mayumi however hasn’t got one so Tatsuya tries to give it to her, but she just meets his hand, so the pair have to share which leaves Mayumi with an innocent smile.

◊ ◊ ◊

Tatsuya took Mayumi as far as he could on his personal scooter. He originally intended to drop her off at her house, but when Mayumi invited him over, he had to change plans. Returning home, he is met by Miyuki who noticed Mayumi’s perfume on his coat but said nothing. Since the New Year she’d become timid around Tatsuya, not willfully, but she couldn’t continue acting like a little sister. As a sister she never wanted to be disliked but had no sense of an overhanging crisis but now it was out in full force. What if Tatsuya disliked her? As a sister she’d still be family, but an engagement can be broken off by one side, and she’d lose everything, a nightmare she couldn’t bear and truly felt if he left her then she wouldn’t be able to go on living.

Tatsuya turns to Miyuki and asks if anything has happened and Miyuki reports Hayama called and they should talk over dinner, concealing her inner turmoil.

Minami joins them for dinner and explains the contents of the call. That it’s suspected Gu Jie is hiding in Nishigaoka in Kamakura, where a former hideout bought by Zhou Gongjin is located. Tatsuya wonders why they aren’t making a move themselves but says nothing as he is aware Miyuki has been nervous around him to the point her expression changes in response to his every word, though he didn’t know why.

Tatsuya ends the conversation by saying they should consult Hayama as to the battle plan.

◊ ◊ ◊

At about the same time, Gu Jie had been preparing to leave his hideout in Kamakura. He had been using Hliðskjálf and had happened to intercept the call. It was the wrong address, but he was in the area and If he lingered any longer, he would definitely be caught with no hope of escaping. He felt uneasy as he knew nothing of how the enemy operate so couldn’t prepare countermeasures. If he focused to much on Kuroba Mitsugu’s transmissions he might get data but would expose himself as a Hliðskjálf operator though it was irrelevant if the other users found out and if the Yotsuba noticed it could be damaging to them. But he had to escape first. Leaving behind a newly created doll as he headed to the next hideout.

◊ ◊ ◊

USA West Coast, local time, February 8th, 7am.

Raymond Clark put on his Hliðskjálf terminal and started investigating the terrorist incident that had occurred in Hakone, Japan. Although he already knew the ‘truth of the incident’ what he really wanted to know was about was the "hero" who resolves the incident.

If he acted pre-emptively to stop the incident then there would be no hero, so he didn’t as it wasn’t fun. Which is why he supports the hero when they reach a dead end instead as it made him feel like a big shot. It’s his favorite game.

Current events didn’t suit his tastes as the perpetrator has evaded detection using Hliðskjálf, which Raymond sees as a tool for the ‘director’ and not the actors. It disrupts the play and now Heigu has taken the stage, Raymond would not allow him to keep using it. And so submits a request to the administrator to delete Heigu’s account.

◊ ◊ ◊

Saturday, February 9th, before dawn.

Two hours before dawn, Tatsuya sets out on his motorcycle for Kamakura. Arriving at the villa Gu Jie is believed to be hiding in, he meets Yoshimi and checked each other’s identities with the fingerprint scanners in their terminals. The check completed, Yoshimi leads the way as Tatsuya, leaving his bike, follows behind.

Stopping before one of the villas with not a person in sight but surrounded by a Yotsuba task force. From the method of concealment, she knew it wasn’t the Kuroba and Yoshimi couldn’t sense Tsukuba Yuuka or Shibata Katsushige meaning it was one of the other families. The Kuroba found this place but due to some circumstances the siege had been allocated to another branch. Gu Jie used a technique to control corpses directly, meaning they were immune to Mental Interference meaning it’s only logical the Kuroba would be excluded from the combat stages.

Suspecting it’s the wrong house, Tatsuya uses Elemental Sight to look inside and sees three living people inside but not just people.

Tatsuya shouts an order for everyone to raise defenses as he pulls his CAD’s trigger, stopping the spell attacking him and jumps back as the house bursts into flames. He tells Yoshimi, who jumped back even further, that there are three Generators inside. That they were the only ones there means the plan had been leaked. Yoshimi asks for the corpses to be left intact.

That request mean Mist Dispersion was not an option but not needing them alive drastically reduces the difficulty so it’s a request Tatsuya is happy to oblige as he makes few exceptions for murderers.

Saying he’ll deal with them, Yoshimi steps back and the others stop their advance and conceal themselves while analyzing the Ignition sequence being emitted inside the house. The fight was at the point it couldn’t be concealed from the fire service or neighbors. Even if he dispersed the spell it could cause and explosion and shock wave that would damage the surroundings, so Tatsuya takes aim at the house and used Mist Dispersion on the pillar holding up the roof, causing it to collapse.

The flames suddenly vanish, and three figures arise from the rubble and the three fireproof armor-clad Generators all fire Ignition at him at once.

Tatsuya counters with Gram Demolition and then counters with Trident, destroying their magical defenses and opened up holes in their chests, destroying their hearts. The three collapsed facing upwards.

Tatsuya closes in on the rubble as Yoshimi and the other personnel come running up from behind as the sirens of a fire engine could be heard in the distance. Yoshimi approaches the corpses with the others standing guard.

A delayed-activation Magic Sequence triggers. Tatsuya immediately raises his CAD as the Generators spring to their feet and attack. Yoshimi falls as she tries to escape so Tatsuya uses Gram Demolition on the three and they collapse. Thanking Tatsuya, Yoshimi orders the bodies be collected.

Tatsuya returns to his bike and leaves.

◊ ◊ ◊

Although Gu Jie had escaped this time, Tatsuya was still in the lead among the ones who were trying to locate the perpetrator of the Hakone terrorism incident.

Officer Chiba Toshikazu had yet to find a single clue and is in Hakone investigating. Toshikazu receives a call from Fujibayashi. She asks if anything strange happened after he met with the Doll Master, such as headaches or trouble sleeping. Toshikazu, feeling elated to be talking to her, confirms he didn’t, and Fujibayashi sounds relieved to hear it. Ending the call Toshikazu returns to his team.

◊ ◊ ◊

Her call finished; Fujibayashi returns her attention to a non-commissioned female officer who specializes in detecting and removing brainwashing. they confirm there appeared to be no evidence of mental interference to Kazuma, confirming Oumi Kazukiyo is in the clear. Fujibayashi is less that happy about using Toshikazu like this, but it was an order from Major General Saeki. To aid the police, lists were given to a number of informants, though the manager of Roter Wald hadn’t cooperated with Kazuma, thus Fujibayashi had not used Toshikazu as bait, but it still felt wrong to her. She asks if it would be better to join in the hunt but Kazuma tells her the Saeki has ordered them to not get involved.

The 101st Battalion is starting to oppose the civilian forces of the Ten Master Clans and although she herself didn’t see it that way, she is backed by the Anti-Ten Master Clans and Anti-General Kudou factions within the military.

As a battalion adjutant, Fujibayashi had her own office. She ponders the situation and wonders if he has no interest in her, having not known about her promotion which would be information publicly available, which leaves her feeling lonely.

Chapter 8

Spoiler
Sunday, February 10th.

It’s nearly 3 pm when Tatsuya and Miyuki visit the Kitayama mansion, having been invited for tea by Shizuku. Shizuku was waiting for them in an elegant western style room. Both Shizuku and Miyuki are well dressed, indicating the nature of the meeting as Shizuku and Miyuki exchange formal greetings.

While waiting for the maid to make tea, Tatsuya notices Shizuku seems tense but decides not to act on it. Miyuki inquires if Honoka will be joining them by Shizuku is evasive, so Miyuki leaves it at that.

Once the tea ready Shizuku serves them and while Miyuki is complimenting it Miyuki lets an Onii-sama slip. Shizuku challenges her addressing her older cousin as such and Miyuki states it’s just a habit as she’s been calling him that since middle school, though when Shizuku questions it, Miyuki doesn’t elaborate which leaves an awkward atmosphere.

The atmosphere is broken when a maid enters to inform Shizuku that her father had arrived, from which Tatsuya deduced the invite actually from him.

Kitayama Ushio enters and greets the three as Tatsuya ponders what he may want, given many will want to form a connection to the Yotsuba. After exchanging formalities Ushio starts a discussion on the current anti-magician sentiment and asks what the Ten Master Clans are going to do about it.

Tatsuya states he can’t go into details but as he was only just recognized as a member of the Yotsuba and Miyuki lived away from the main house, the pair are not in a position to know the decisions made by the clans. He goes on to state he has joined the mission to capture and hand over the mastermind of the terrorist attack to the police.

Ushio asks about the anti-magic campaign itself, but Tatsuya replies he hasn’t heard anything. Ushio states he can’t do nothing and offers to cooperate to deal with the media.

Though he thinks it desirable, Tatsuya gives a neutral reply to this, stating the pair cannot represent the will of the clans and goes on to say that interfering would be detrimental for the Kitayama, especially taking Shizuku and his family into account as they could be targeted. Tatsuya them advises he will seek help if it escalates to the point the other students are being targeted maliciously, they have no intention to act pre-emptively beyond advising prudence. Ushio states that should the need arise they can speak to him again and leaves.

◊ ◊ ◊

Tatsuya had refused Ushio's offer because it wasn't his duty to handle the media, not because the clans thought it unnecessary. While the Shiba couple was visiting the Kitayama, Kouichi was meeting with Congressman Ueno in an expensive restaurant.

After eating the pair get down to business, which Ueno speculating it’s about the media given the current situation, leading him to ask if Kouichi wants to pressure the media or redirect the hate at the terrorists. Kouichi corrects him by saying all he wants is to ensure if a magician is harmed by the actions of the anti-magician group, that they not go unpunished using excuses such as self-defense if the magicians react even in the slightest to harassment and threats. He goes on to say this is a pretty standard tactic to crush an opposition party and their reputation and could escalate to the point the country’s magicians will be ignored if they complain about injury or damage. Ueno realizes Kouichi intends to sacrifice the students of the Magic High Schools and University and when he tries to confirm it Kouichi simply states even if the police keep watch they can’t interfere until something actually happens, so wants to ensure the aftermath is fair.

◊ ◊ ◊

Monday, February 11th. Tatsuya, Miyuki and Minami head to school as usual and although the post-bombing anxiety was present, curiosity was the prevalent sentiment. Tatsuya asks Mizuki for the cause and she states she’s not certain, but it appears Ichijou Masaki has transferred from Third High. This surprised Tatsuya as although he knew Ichijou would be assisting the mission, he didn’t expect him to attend First High. Tatsuya asks where the information came from and Erika greets him saying it was her, she had heard he was taken to the principal’s office. This leaves Tatsuya wondering if it was ‘that’ scenario.

In Class A, Vice Principle Yaosaka is informing the class Masaki will be staying in Tokyo for a month for ‘family business’ and will be taking classes with them using a terminal from Third High, taking the desk of a student who dropped out two months prior. Ichijou then gives his greeting to the class.

He’d been placed in Class A as they had prior experience with temporary students and absolutely not in consideration to the Ichijou’s marriage proposal to the Yotsuba, though Miyuki is dubious of the situation.

◊ ◊ ◊

At lunch that day Masaki dined with the boys, which surprised Erika. Mikihiko points out he’d be hated if he’d done that since he’s a man, Lina having only gotten away with it as she was a girl.

Shizuku asks about Lina since she hadn’t met her. They confirm she was a blue-eyed beauty and cute, a lovely girl with an American vibe. They also state her magic power was impressive. Tatsuya comments Shizuku would have liked her as she was vulnerable to heated arguments, earning reprimands from both her and Miyuki.

The conversation returns to Masaki’s transfer, clarifying it’s only temporary, the others are informed he’s here on family business. Tatsuya mentions the recent proclamation from the Magic Association and confirms he’ll be working with Tatsuya, Katsuto and Mayumi to catch the mastermind.

Mikihiko offers to help, but Tatsuya declines and redirects Mikihiko’s attention to the harassment targeted at the students, citing the incident from before the bombing and how it could escalate to violence. Looking at the data, Mikihiko apologizes as he’d not acted on the increase, having been focused on the school’s interior. Tatsuya asks the data be shared with the Student Council so they can compare.

◊ ◊ ◊

After his classes were over, Tatsuya heads to Class A. He’s greeted by Miyuki who he tells her that he needs to speak with Masaki, which is received with a smile that makes Tatsuya uncomfortable, something that has been occurring since the New Year’s Gathering.

Miyuki fetches Masaki and Tatsuya informs him of the meetings with Katsuto about the mission and invites him to attend. Masaki agrees and Tatsuya tells him the time and sends him a map to the venue via his terminal. Masaki is taken aback by the fact Tatsuya didn’t offer to show him the way, but Tatsuya is uninterested and upon confirming he has the data, leaves with Miyuki to escort her to the Student Council room.

◊ ◊ ◊

At precisely 6 pm, Tatsuya went to the restaurant for the meeting. He left at 7 pm. Tatsuya had already shared the information gleaned from Kamakura so all there was to discuss was an explanation on the investigation by Masaki. The other three stayed for dinner but Tatsuya headed home.

While heading home, Tatsuya thought about the strained smiles Miyuki has been showing since the New Year’s Gathering. It seemed like she was trying to hide it so he hadn’t asked but he it was making him anxious and could no longer ignore it and they needed to talk. Tatsuya continued thinking about how to branch the subject until he got home having not decided anything. His slower than usual movements are noticed by Miyuki who was waiting to greet him, leading her to think he’s ill, though he quickly reassures her.

After dinner he takes a bath and decides to try to talk to Miyuki once more. He meets Miyuki in the living room. She quickly goes to make coffee before he can speak, affirming that she’s noticed his anxiety and what he wants to talk about but isn’t happy about it.

Miyuki returns and asks if he’s alright. Tatsuya asks her to sit and asks her directly what she’s so worried about. Miyuki is reluctant to talk but just before she gave in the phone rang and she quickly answers it.

The call is from Maya. She informs him that the Yotsuba’s communications, with security on par with the Military’s, have been intercepted. Maya then states all further clues will be transmitted by letter. Tatsuya read between the lines that they had a clue and it would arrive tomorrow. Maya then turns the conversation to the meeting with Katsuto, Masaki and Mayumi and makes it clear he’s not to get along with them too well, which confuses Tatsuya. Maya explains Mayumi is attended by direction of the Saegusa family, so they spend time together. Tatsuya agrees to be careful from now on.

Maya ends the call and Tatsuya turns towards a very angry Miyuki, though she was hiding it. Though he felt she need not hide anything, he decided Miyuki’s envy and restraint were a sign of her maturing.

◊ ◊ ◊

February 12th. It was snowing as Tatsuya made his way to Kokonoe’s temple the day after the call. Running at almost 60 kph, he stops when he spots Yoshimi and she gives him an envelope.

After returning home and taking a shower, Tatsuya opens the envelope. Miyuki walked in as he was reading and immediately realizes what it is before Tatsuya passes it to her. Miyuki’s eyes open wide when she reads it appears Gu Jie’s escape was aided by soldiers from the Defense Force. Tatsuya states if an enemy means them harm, there is no reason for restraint.

◊ ◊ ◊

Class 2-A’s lesson at 1 pm was a practical on defining a magic’s ending conditions. Improperly setting the ending conditions will have an unspecified duration and as the spell itself cannot be interfered with without specialized counter magic like Spell Dismantling, can only be stopped with more powerful magic, placing a burden on the caster. This is why it’s an important factor in the evaluation.

The two methods to define an end point are to either set a specified duration or define a success condition. The latter is the focus of today’s lesson, though it was a practice session and not an evaluation.

The practical needed doing in pairs, but in the last lesson, the number of students had been odd, and Miyuki had to practice alone. With Masaki’s addition, this issue was solved, and he asked her to pair up with him, to which she agrees.

Hearing the objective of the task, Masaki dismisses the task as too easy as at Third High they are currently focusing on hitting targets behind a wall with no line of sight, thinking they are just competing in cleverness. A belief further amplified when Miyuki completes the task perfectly. Masaki takes his turn, but loses concentration thinking about Miyuki instead of focusing and has to correct the spell and ends up 0.7 seconds off the target time. Though a passing time, he had only done so thanks to the countdown. Overhearing that Honoka had done it perfectly as well, Masaki spends the rest of the session perfecting his performance.

◊ ◊ ◊

As morning classes ended Masaki is called out to by Honoka who invites him to join them for lunch. They look over to Shizuku and Miyuki to confirm, and Miyuki, who gives a fake smile, agrees.

Arriving at the cafeteria, Miyuki asks if Masaki can join them and Tatsuya agrees without hesitation, which puzzles Masaki slightly. The four from Class A go for their meals and then sit down with Miyuki next to Tatsuya, Honoka across from him and Masaki across from Miyuki. Erika, having moved next to Miyuki, asks Masaki about the investigation, which nearly makes him choke as she asked him about a mission verging on a grey line with the law in public. Tatsuya steps in and points out he only just arrived, with Miyuki following up by admonishing Erika slightly and an apology. Miyuki then teases Masaki about being complimented by Tatsuya, but Tatsuya steps in when Masaki gets flustered. However, before they can start talking, Honoka quickly jumps in and talks to Tatsuya directly about the practical lessons they just had and lays the compliments on thick as Mizuki reports Tatsuya did the exercise perfectly from the first run. Hearing this disheartens Masaki and Miyuki quickly gives some comforting words, while Honoka tries to monopolize Tatsuya. This was all according to plan as the whole reason she’d invited Masaki was so he would distract Miyuki so she could get closer to Tatsuya.

◊ ◊ ◊

After leaving Miyuki at school and heading home to change, Tatsuya travels to the 101st Brigades headquarters on his motorbike. He’s here to negotiate as although the Ten Master Clans have taken an official stance to attenuate the anti-magician hate, but after seeing Gu Jie’s activities in Kamakura, Tatsuya has decided the matter needs settling quickly. Tatsuya wishes for a future where magicians can avoid living as tools of war, but Gu Jie and his methods are a threat to this, so he needs to die, and his living ‘tools’ destroyed.

Tatsuya heads up to Kazuma’s office. Tatsuya explains he came in person as it’s possible the communications could be intercepted, revealing his first card, that the Yotsuba’s communications may have been compromised. Tatsuya then reports Zama Base, a site the military use for making enhanced magicians and experimenting on foreigners, may have been compromised as three of the enhanced magicians that should have been there were in terrorist hands.

Kazuma thinks for a moment and then asks who else knows. Tatsuya reports only the Yotsuba do, meaning it hasn’t been shared with the other clans.

Kazuma then asks Tatsuya’s intentions, and Tatsuya states it is unlikely Gu Jie would be at the base the way Zhou had hidden in the Uji Second Supply Base. Kazuma confirms with Tatsuya that Gu Jie is the mastermind. Tatsuya goes on to say it is more likely Gu Jie has a collaborator there than him being the one making Generators.

Kazuma asks the identities of the three Generators and Tatsuya passes him an envelope with their photographs.

Kazuma asks him to leave the investigation to him, and Tatsuya reveals his next card, that Gu Jie’s hideout is next to Zama base. Kazuma asks if he’s concerned about involving the base and Tatsuya affirms that he’s concerned the investigation could antagonize the Special Forces there who have a strong enmity towards the Ten Master Clans. This was due to them dealing with escapees every year from what should be a facility that’s impossible to escape. Were they to learn an unauthorized fight broke out near them involving the Yotsuba, some of the experiments could escape on purpose.

Kazuma states they’d need a General to authorize a non-intervention order. Tatsuya says there isn’t time as Gu Jie would escape and tells Kazuma he intends to settle things and although he intends to avoid a fight, he will erase all trances of any fight that breaks out.

Kazuma realizes Tatsuya means he will kill even allied soldiers. With a bitter expression, Kazuma authorizes the use of Mist Dispersion.

◊ ◊ ◊

It was 8 pm when Tatsuya arrived near the Zama base. He hadn’t informed the others from the Ten Master Clans, his only companions here being the Yotsuba. He makes his way over to a van in a public parking lot and when he’s close enough to talk in whispers, greets the Kuroba twins. All of them are hiding their presences, but Tatsuya is on another level and surprises the pair, earning praise from Fumiya and a complaint from Ayako. Since the engagement, Ayako has been acting less reserved with Tatsuya as a way of accepting the reality of the situation. She tries to get Yoshimi to complain too, but she declines.

Yoshimi is the daughter of Ayako’s mother’s brother, Ayako’s maternal cousin. She’s currently twenty-one years old but hasn’t attended school since middle school, using the correspondence option for high school, so she could focus on her investigative duties while learning. Fumiya prompts Tatsuya to change into combat gear in the van. Fumiya is, as usual, in his cross-dressing disguise.

The combat suit the Yotsuba had prepared looked similar to the clothes he had been wearing, but performance wise was on par with the Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion's Mobile Suit. Instead of his usual Silver Horn CAD, he’s using a thought-controlled type set with a Silver Taurus bracelet. Inside his suit, a knife and gun are concealed, which is why they are changing here. His helmet will also function as a gas mask.

Fumiya is wearing a mini-dress full of button ornaments containing gas and flash bombs. Their preparations made, Tatsuya takes point while Fumiya, Ayako and a number of men in black suits follow behind. The number of shadows surrounding Yoshimi who’d stayed behind suddenly increased as she saw them off.

The three observe the target building using a specialized sensor that looks like binoculars, while hidden by Ayako’s magic. They observe that the security is really tight.

Yoshimi got the location from the memories of one of the Generators they killed. A private hospital on paper, the facility does illegal requests for the military as an unofficial research facility.

Tatsuya states they can sneak in but with such heavy security, it’s likely there is more waiting for them inside and when asked if he thinks it may be a trap, Tatsuya affirms he believes it is. Though security is heavy, it’s nothing compared to the sensors set up at the Steeplechase event.

Inside he can detect nine human shadows.

Five of which are those have the information structure of normal humans, likely doctors and nurses.

One of which had noise in his head’s information and was likely the director who was now a puppet.

Two appear to be generators.

And the last one looks like a normal human, but the data is strange, having two data sets for his age. Something he’d only seen before in Zhou Gongjin. He hadn’t paid it mind at the time as he was trying to locate Zhou’s true location while disguised by Ghost Walker, but Tatsuya remembers every detail.

Tatsuya concludes the last is Gu Jie and tells the others and they decide to act immediately. The three walk right up to the front gate, having decided to ignore the order to avoid a fight due to the risk of the National Defense getting involved. Giving the signal, the buildings power is cut to the building using magic to cut the wire. The security system down, the three use Ayako’s magic and jump to the roof.

The plan was simple. Ayako secures their retreat, Fumiya guards her and Tatsuya will secure Gu Jie alone.

The lights came back on almost the exact moment Tatsuya entered the building, as he’d expected. Tatsuya sees Gu Jie heading for the emergency stairway, likely predicting what was happening. Tatsuya heads for the emergency stairway and stops in his tracks just before the last room. Bullets come flying out of the door and Tatsuya quickly decomposes his attacker’s gun and uses Gram Dispersion to block the attempts to cast Ignition whilst disarming the second Generator.

A Generator bursts though the door at speeds surpassing human limits. One attacks with a knife but Tatsuya’s training had made him familiar with controlling his body with Psions while protecting his information to account for the lack of biochemical enhancements, so he wasn’t disadvantaged as he parried and dispelled the Body Ignition the Generator was casting.

The blade lock lasts a moment and then the Generator jumps back, allowing Tatsuya to turn abound to throw his knife at the other approaching from behind, forcing them to stop. Their eyes of Tatsuya for a moment, they take a bullet to the stomach from Tatsuya’s silenced gun, bringing them down, though their body armor stops the bullet.

Tatsuya turns back around and parries the first Generator by grabbing their wrist as they aim their knife at Tatsuya’s neck, and dispelled the spells it was casting as he broke the Generator’s wrist and shot him. Their attacks delayed, he uses Partial Dismantling and destroys their hearts.

The pair dead, Tatsuya continues his pursuit of Gu Jie who has reached the ground floor. Jumping down the stairs he takes aim at the bulletproof and heat resistance ambulance Gu Jie is escaping in. The Cast Jamming it was emitting was not an issue for him either, however the high-power rifle bullets shot at him were and obstacle.

◊ ◊ ◊

On that day, a large-scale VTOL aircraft from the USNA came flying to the Zama base and as the facility was a joint one between Japan and the USNA, there was no reason to refuse the landing. The commander met with the head officer, who introduced himself as Major Benjamin Lowes, and immediately realized he was a high-level magician. Lowe reports he’s been sent to catch deserters and that it appears some were missed from the incident back in December.

Lowes is actually Commander of the Stars' First Unit, Benjamin Canopus.

He then tells the commander that the deserters are planning to kidnap a doctor who provides treatments for this base and that the attack will occur this evening. He goes on to tell them that the deserters are being pursued by the Ten Master Clans so using the troops stationed at the base is undesirable. He then asks for the base commander to overlook his unit’s activities. The commander is reluctant, so Canopus proposes a joint operation and requests the five units stolen by Gu Jie, to which the commander agrees.

This was three hours before Tatsuya launched his attack.

◊ ◊ ◊

Tatsuya took a hit to his left arm, but the second bullet was decomposed as he rolled on the ground, the wound already healed. The shot had come from the sky, but no aircraft was visible. Tracking the sniper’s information in Zama base, Tatsuya immediately wonders why the USNA are intervening to help Gu Jie escape as he disables the sniper’s rifle and armor. Had he been a member of the defense forces Tatsuya would have killed him, but his being USNA had not been accounted for and Tatsuya avoided erasing him as it could cause an international incident. Tatsuya then shoots him and restores the armor and weapon to hide what was done. The sniper dealt with, Tatsuya return his attention to Gu Jie, but quickly changes target and runs at full speed to Fumiya and Ayako who are fighting hard.

Fumiya had reacted instantly to the soldiers who landed on the roof with Direct Pain and caused them to drop their weapons whilst Ayako raised a barrier. However, some smoke grenades had already been thrown and they blocked his line of sight, inhibiting his sight and impairing his ability to cast magic, reducing its effectiveness more than anticipated.

Suddenly there is a screech and something similar to Cast Jamming is used and his CAD stops functioning. Ayako tells him to use more Psions as rifle bullets slam into the barrier she’s maintaining by doing the same.

Using this method, Fumiya clears away the smoke screen revealing the five enemies, three with rifles and two, having dropped their rifles were using the devices causing the Cast Jamming. Fumiya tells Ayako to flee as he throws a kick at one of the men targeting Ayako, throwing the man back in the air, but getting injured in the process as the man slashed Fumiya’s leg with their knife. Realizing the injury is worse than it appears, Ayako throws a flash bomb behind Fumiya as more enemy reinforcements keep arriving. The man attacking Fumiya is stunned and Fumiya knocks him out with his magic.

While this was happening, they pair had been fired at constantly, so Ayako had had to maintain the barrier, the cast jammer stopping her from escaping in the interval between casting the barrier and having to recast it. And Fumiya was so injured he could only target one at a time whereas normally he could target them all at once.

Neither had the time to consider how strange the enemy were. They were purposely only replacing the unconscious soldiers, not sending more to make it more of a struggle.

Just when Fumiya was going to do something g desperate, two gun shots destroy the Cast Jammers. Tatsuya has arrived on the roof from the stairs. He hadn’t jumped up directly to avoid being a target for snipers and to spread sleeping gas inside to keep the civilians from getting involved.

The gunshots were a distraction. He’d actually used decomposition on them.

The rifles turned towards Tatsuya and fired.

Using the same trick as in the 2095 Thesis Competition, Tatsuya catches the bullets, shocking the soldiers, and using that pause to take out seven by decomposing holes into their stomachs. Fumiya takes out the rest from the other side of the roof with Direct Pain. Seeing Fumiya’s injury, Tatsuya restores his leg and tights.

He then shoots all the men he used decomposition on so it looks like they were injured by gunshots, while using a knife to stab the ones Fumiya took out, relaying if they are treated quickly then they won’t die.

Tatsuya points out these are USNA troops so kidnapping them would be a bad idea and they likely don’t know about Gu Jie. The twins see Tatsuya is correct and the three go to collect the corpses of the Generators.

◊ ◊ ◊

On the USNA aircraft carrier docked at the base in Zama, Canopus receives a report that the obstruction force was annihilated, but Heigu’s car escaped. The USNA are ahead of the Yotsuba due to having a means to track his Psion signature that the Japanese didn’t have.

Chapter 9

Spoiler
Ever since the USNA military had interfered the day before yesterday, there had been no progress in the operation and the events had robbed Tatsuya of any motivation for the mission. He had reported the issue of the USNA’s troops helping Gu Jie escape to Kazuma, but no one has made any progress since.

Masaki wants to skip school to focus on the mission but can’t as his father and third High’s principal would lose face but is struggling to concentrate on his class work. Not wanting to show his dejection to the girl he liked Masaki elects to eat alone but before he can leave a girl gives him a small box with a ribbon and runs off. Masaki is confused by this and his perplexed state is swarmed by other girls who also give him gifts. Hearing laughter he turns around to see Honoka, Shizuku and Miyuki who tell him it’s Valentine’s Day. Realizing what he was carrying his spirit is crushed when Miyuki comment’s he’ll likely receive more.

Leaving the boxes in a bag on his desk, he ends up joining the three for lunch with Tatsuya’s group where he noticed the atmosphere in the school which lacks liveliness. Erika immediately asks Masaki how many chocolates he received, to his annoyance, and let’s slip she bet more than single digits. Masaki won’t say but Honoka and Shizuku reveal it was seven so far. Leo is impressed given Masaki just transferred. Leo reveals he’s had none but has club, hinting he’ll get some then, to which Erika retorts and the pair bicker as usual until Mikihiko steps in.

◊ ◊ ◊

After lessons were over, Tatsuya headed towards the school entrance. The hunt for Gu Jie was still on, though Tatsuya’s role was handling the clues that they had been (illegally) provided from their own users and the intelligence agencies. Feeling there is no point, were it not Valentine’s Day, he’d have gone to the student council.

He hears someone shout his name and turns to see Honoka and was relived to see she wasn’t alone. Asking for a moment she produces a package from her bag and tries to give it to Tatsuya in front of the passing students. Tatsuya reminds her he is engaged to Miyuki. Honoka is not deterred so he accepts and promptly tries to leave but is stopped by Shizuku who passes him a bag containing chocolate from her. Eimi then takes the opportunity to run up and give him some from her. Tatsuya remains completely indifferent to the entire affair. Subaru and Minami’s partner from Shield Down along with her classmates also appear and hand him some chocolate completely filling the bag.

◊ ◊ ◊

After his meeting with Katsuto and the others, Tatsuya headed back home and is welcomed by Miyuki wearing a long one-piece dress with a frilled apron on top, sitting in a manner that looked not unlike the way a Japanese wife waiting for her husband. She sees the bag of chocolates and asks about it. Realizing he states there was nothing from Mayumi reiterating the previous year was a prank, which Miyuki criticizes. Tatsuya retorts by asking if Masaki received a gift, something Miyuki never gives to anyone, especially in the current situation where she couldn’t pass it off as a gift. He then goes on to point out he expressively stated he was engaged but when she insisted, he took them. Miyuki starts to react to this, but Tatsuya cuts her off saying he knows he was pitiful. The mood becomes strained and as Tatsuya goes on to explain himself, Miyuki cuts him off and sends him to the dining room to wait for dinner and walks away.

Dinner between the three remains awkward and after dinner Tatsuya is about to leave when he is stopped by Miyuki. As Minami clears the table, Miyuki brings over a large plate covered by a cake done from the fridge and states she doesn’t know if Tatsuya did the wrong thing or not and she’s not going to think about it further but makes it clear should he concern himself with Honoka further then to moderate their interactions as she doesn’t want to have to do something ‘unnecessary’. That said she lifts the dome and presents Tatsuya a homemade chocolate cake that wasn’t the work of an amateur as his Valentine’s Chocolate. Tatsuya cuts a sixth for himself and states he’d been looking forwards to her chocolates with a smile. Miyuki is bright red as she goes to make some coffee.

Chapter 10

Spoiler
Friday, February 15th, 2097 A.D.

Valentine’s Day the day before may have been a much-needed reprieve but what all Magicians had feared began. At 11 am, in front of the Magic University’s gates, a protest broke out which included plans to break though the gates and engage the police there. The police weren’t siding with the magicians, rather the institute housed a lot of intelligence relating to national defense so restricting access was a matter of national security. However, the protesters failed to understand this, or rather purposely chose to misinterpret it and became violent and upon being pushed back, fell down to play the victim.

Watching the news in First High’s canteen are Tatsuya’s friends, joined by Masaki, as the protesters start throwing stones at the police and the twenty-fourth person is arrested, though arresting everyone would be impossible without more officers, it’s on camera so they can be detained after the fact.

Leo spots Erika’s brother on the screen but Erika is indifferent.

Mikihiko changed the subject and asks how many people are in the protest but no numbers have been released yet. Tatsuya estimates from the pictures at least 200 if not more than 500.

Erika is then outraged when lawyers start criticizing the arrests on TV for violating freedom of speech despite the fact it was obviously an attempt at illegal entry. Mikihiko gives an ominous prediction a substantial number of people will using the same excuses as the lawyers.

◊ ◊ ◊

The broadcasted video had been purposely cut like that. What wasn’t shown included that in the midst of the protest the police made a human wall and a thug had attacked them with a blunt weapon. He was caught by Inagaki who was in plain clothes amongst the crowd, but he was injured, suffering bruises to his hand, in the process protecting the officer being attacked. Toshikazu notices swelling on his head too but it’s not serious. Toshikazu gives him permission to go home as he’s worried because he’s seen Inagaki making that gesture many times recently.

◊ ◊ ◊

That night there was a fairly intense debate on the news, both in support and against magicians across many channels.

On one channel Congressman Kanda harshly criticized the police’s handling of the situation siting that they had armor and only one officer was injured with bruises but retaliated with magic which was excessive, before going on to say he wishes to pass a bill to further restrict the use of magic to even greater heights than those of firearms.

On another Congressman Ueno, who advocated for the rights of Magicians, calmly answered the casts questions. Pointing out that access to the University is restricted due to the work done there for national defense. That it would have been negligent not to stop the violent protesters and that the magic used was within regulation and had to bind the ones they arrested to protect the public. He also states using magic to overpower people has been proven to be safer than using gas or stun guns.

Watching with Mayumi, her father comments only Congressman Ueno seems composed and although Kanda is a clown, the public seem to react more to exaggerated and emotional speakers. Mayumi too feels Ueno is being lackluster. She asks what they should do and Kouichi says to just observe for now. He’s surprised Cal-net seem to be on their side and wonders if Sawamura Maki will make an appearance, since she’s the chairman’s daughter.

After having watched the same broadcast Takuma called Maki to thank her for Ueno’s appearance on her father’s network. She points out it wasn’t just for him as Ueno also benefited so he need not thank her and reaffirmed he would repay the favor.

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A lot of people were also unhappy because the mass media didn't take a one-sided anti-magician stance. Gu Jie was not only unhappy but impatient too. His plan was to turn the public against magicians who would in turn use the Ten Master Clans as a scapegoat and then use the Ten Master Clans to remove the Yotsuba. He had certainly created an opening, but things will die down too quickly to be effective.

Gu Jie wants revenge on Dahan for driving him out, but the Yotsuba stole his revenge from him when they destroyed Dahan shortly after, so he is targeting them instead. To take away everything, their status, their honor, and their pride as had happened to him. And after witnessing that he would find a quiet place to die. If it failed, he would give up. He didn’t have time to try again and needed to escape using the connections Zhou Gongjin had prepared.

Deciding to focus on escape rather than covering his tracks and decides he needs stronger puppets than the ones stolen from the Japanese army, recalling the seal that had been carved onto a pupil of a magic clan with a high potential and to use that pupil to fish for his teacher.

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Saturday, February 16th.

The anti-Magic Association held another demonstration today. However, this time, the target wasn't the Magic University. Their course was heading from the central government agencies to the National Parliament. This one was peaceful.

400 kilometres away at Second High in Nishinomiya, two high schoolers were attacked by anti-magicians on the way home.

Hearing of the incident, Tatsuya returns to the school to get the details.

Female students were attacked. Other students rushed to help but some of the hoodlums were injured while being repelled. Minami connects a video call to Second High, which is answered by the Vice President Kudou Minoru. Miyuki asks for the details of the attack. Minoru replies an hour ago freshman girls were surrounded by six men in their twenties and preaching ‘Humanism’ doctrine at them in loud voices, that magic is against god. When the men refused to let them leave one activated crime prevention buzzer on her terminal, which one man tried to steal, causing a scuffle. Hearing this, four other students came to help, three freshman and a junior. The second year pushed through to the girls and a brawl ensued. The attackers knew Chinese martial arts and when the second year got knocked down the girls finished their spells and incapacitated the attackers.

Injuries to the second year were serious included internal injuries, while one first year had a broken collar bone and another a concussion. The others were fine.

From the spells Press and Spark most of the attackers had bruises and scratches though one’s pulse was irregular, and another fell and hit his head, cutting his mouth and breaking a tooth.

Miyuki states she heard the criminals had more serious injuries and Minoru clarifies the irregular pulse seemed more severe than it was and that is the cause. Having heard the details, the group is split between relief and bitter smiles. Confirmed it wasn’t excessive self-defense Minoru reports the President, a Vice-President and a teacher will be going to the police and says he will email the results.

The call over, Miyuki turns to Tatsuya and they discuss how magic for self-defense is a delicate subject and has no clear standards, with Tatsuya stating a judge could rule it illegal all together. This worries Izumi as it means they’d be defenseless but Shizuku point out non-magical self-defense is still legal.

At home Tatsuya reminds Minami that First High could be targeted next and to guard Miyuki as much as possible but not to use magical attacks, including Reflection. Minami is worried as this will reduce the duration of her shields when used in combination with Deceleration. Miyuki offers to take up the casting of Deceleration but Tatsuya states with his seal in place it would be difficult to make minute adjustments and will erode the shield. Plus, as the next head of the Yotsuba she must avoid using magic on civilians. Tatsuya states instead if it looks like Miyuki will be attacked, he’ll come running so they just need to hold out.

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Sunday morning Erika bumps into Toshikazu as he’s leaving for work. She tries to avoid him but fails. Erika dislikes Toshikazu due to being ridiculed in training by him when she was younger and since starting High School she’d given up reconciling. Toshikazu asks if she’s seen Inagaki as he’d been missing since leaving yesterday and asks her to contact him immediately if she turns up.

Later Erika, having waited until her family wouldn’t be there, trains in the Dojo alone. Seeing two disciples from Inagaki’s generation, Naitou and Kadota. She goes over to ask about Inagaki, telling them he’s missing. They don’t know anything but it’s out of character for him not to leave a message so Naitou asks all the other disciples present if they’d seen him today or yesterday. No one has but two in their twenties report seeing him in Kamakura the day before yesterday but didn’t speak to him as it looked like he was working. Erika asks Naitou to relay the conversation to Toshikazu.

Having been contacted by Naitou, Toshikazu got into his undercover patrol car without even stopping at the investigation’s headquarters. The house of the Ancient magician who explained corpse control magic was in Kamakura, and not only had he’d received a warning from Fujibayashi, but the man was under surveillance by the Magic Association and had ties to Dahan as well as the signs in the form of Inagaki’s headaches.

Fearing the magician had used mind control magic on Inagaki he parks his car one block away from the magician’s house and erased his presence before entering. Expanding his senses with magic, he is surprised by the lack of defenses and quickly finds Inagaki, who appears to be on the brink of death and it’s a race against time.

Toshikazu immediately abandons regular procedure, even if it means having to resign, and rings the bell. He is immediately invited in and, despite the sense of foreboding, enters the building. There he is met Guen in the corridor, by an old man wearing a costume who appears to be from the continent, likely Vietnam.

Guem states Oumi is our but an acquaintance of Toshikazu’s is here and leads the way. Upon seeing Inagaki on a bed Toshikazu rushes over to him. Realizing this left his back open be adjusts so he can see both the old man and Inagaki at the same time and approached Inagaki.

Toshikazu demands answers and the old man tells him Inagaki has been cursed. That Oumi found him collapsed and administered aid but couldn’t contact him as the phone line is an avenue of the curse’s attack.

Inagaki calls out to Toshikazu and he places a hand on the bed, keeping his guard up. Suddenly Inagaki grabs his wrist and tries to stick him with a syringe. Toshikazu reflexively counters and is shocked from behind and passes out.

◊ ◊ ◊

February 18th.

The Ten Master Clans and the police have been searching for Gu Jie for who weeks but have not yet found him. No new clues were found on the bodies of the Generators obtained in Zama.

While Tatsuya is on his way to Kamakura to investigate, he got a sudden sense of impending danger. You say that he could feel it in his bones. Stopping his bike he focuses his eyes on Miyuki and despite not being able to find what gave him the sense of danger turns his bike towards Hachiouji.

◊ ◊ ◊

The school day hadn’t ended but Miyuki, Izumi and Minami were heading to the station nearest First High on a Student Council errand to buy souvenirs to give the graduating students. After negotiating with the shop for the order the three head back to the school.

Ten minutes into the walk back they see ten men in a side street surrounding some students from First High. Izumi called out to find out what is happening. The men immediately recognize her as a member of the Saegusa and Miyuki as the Student Council President. Miyuki tries to restrain Izumi but it’s too late, the men surround Miyuki’s group instead. Izumi demands an explanation but instead receives a line about her being a sinner and demands for them to repent. Miyuki stops Izumi from getting riled up and turns around warning them to open a path or it will be unlawful confinement. At this the ringleader threatens Miyuki demanding she shut up. Miyuki says Minami’s name and gets out her terminal to use the crime prevention buzzer as Minami raises a barrier of Isolation and Deceleration that just barely didn’t touch the men. The man tries to grab the terminal but is blocked by the barrier.

This angers the men as they used magic but Miyuki counters saying it is merely self defense against flagrant illegal confinement and that she can tell when her body is in danger.

In response the leader yells to ‘punish them’ and four of them raise their hands which have a brass Antinite ring on the middle finger, calling the Cast Jamming ‘divine punishment. Minami moaned as the barrier’s walls shook.

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